A man has a conversation with his doctor

Why It's Important to Catch Prostate Cancer Early

About 1 in every 9 men will develop prostate cancer during his life. However, many cases progress so slowly that doctors may only recommend active surveillance rather than treatment. Some cases go entirely unnoticed. Should you even consider screening? Read on.

How Essential Is Early Detection?  

No two cases of prostate cancer are the same. Some grow slowly while some progress rapidly. Without treatment, slow-growing cancer might spread only slightly over time, but an aggressive tumor might overwhelm the prostate—causing uncomfortable symptoms—or even metastasize. 

A metastatic growth occurs when cancer spreads from one location in the body to another. This happens when cancer cells break away from a tumor and travel to a nearby lymph node or blood vessel. From there, it can attach to another part of the body (such as a bone or an organ) and grow, forming a second tumor. Prostate cancer most commonly spreads to bone and lymph nodes.

The 5-year survival rate for men with local prostate cancer (which has not spread to other areas) is nearly 100%. The 5-year survival rate for men with metastatic prostate cancer is about 30%, a steep drop that highlights the importance of detecting the cancer before it spreads.

How to Catch Prostate Cancer Early 

There are two main types of screenings that your doctor may recommend. The first requires drawing blood to measure the level of prostate-specific antigen (PSA). Higher amounts often indicate the presence of prostate cancer. 

The second test is a physical exam in which a doctor puts on gloves, lubricates their finger, and inserts it into the rectum to feel whether the prostate is enlarged. If any of the results point toward the possibility of prostate cancer, your doctor will recommend following up with additional tests. 

In its early stages, prostate cancer doesn’t often produce symptoms, making regular screening important. Cases in advanced stages tend to produce the following symptoms, which prompt an immediate trip to your primary care physician

  • Difficulty urinating 
  • Difficulty achieving an erection 
  • Bloody urine or semen 
  • Pain in the hips, back, or chest
  • Incontinence 
  • Weakness or numbness in lower extremities 

Speak with your CHI St. Luke’s Health primary care physician or urologist to see when they recommend you begin screening based on your risk factors. If a test comes back positive, they may refer you to a CHI St. Luke’s Health oncologist for treatment. Patients in our network benefit from access to the nationally ranked Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of only three NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Texas, which brings innovative therapies from lab to bedside faster than ever to help stop cancer in its tracks. 

 

Sources: 
American Cancer Society | Key Statistics for Prostate Cancer
American Cancer Society | Can Prostate Cancer Be Found Early?
Cancer.net | Prostate Cancer: Statistics
American Cancer Society | Understanding Advanced Cancer, Metastatic Cancer, and Bone Metastasis
American Cancer Society | If You Have Prostate Cancer 
Harvard Health Publishing | Prostate cancer lives as it is born: slow-growing and benign or fast-growing and dangerous
American Cancer Society | Signs and Symptoms of Prostate Cancer